US resumes airstrikes against IS as Turkey reopens air base

Washington, July 18 (IANS) The US resumed airstrikes against the Islamic State (IS) after Turkey opened its airbase which was closed in the wake of a failed attempted coup on July 16.

Speaking to reporters onboard his plane after a visit to Afghanistan, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, confirmed the reopening of the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, Xinhua news agency reported on Monday.

“We resumed flight operations, and airspace is opened back up — business as usual,” Dunford told Pentagon reporters, adding there are no plans to change the US force posture in Turkey.

“Our relationship with Turkey as a Nato ally is broad — politically, economically and from a security perspective,” he said.

In terms of urgency, the US was most concerned about the counter-IS fight and its partnership with Turkey in the fight, Dunford added.

The border area between Turkey and Syria was critical, as foreign fighters and money flow across the border, Dunford noted.

“The Turkish-Syrian border is important to isolate the battlefield in Syria,” he said, adding “and so we’re watching that pretty closely, too.”

Dunford expressed relief that Turkey “bounced back pretty quickly” in the first 24 hours in terms of facilitating operations in Syria.

Turkey closed the airspace of the Incirlik Air Base and cut commercial power supply following Friday’s military coup attempt, in which at least 290 people, including 190 civilians, were killed.

The coup attempt appears to have further strained Ankara’s ties with Washington, as Turkey accused a US-based cleric, Fethullah Gulen, of plotting the coup, while demanding Gulen’s extradition by the American government.

Speaking in Luxembourg on Saturday, US Secretary of State John Kerry said the Washington would consider Turkey’s request for Gulen’s extradition on condition that Turkey proves the cleric’s wrongdoing.

–IANS

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